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SummaryA weird - but welcome - part of the Metroid series
The GoodThe game is a good example of how Metroid series could logically be something else than what it usually stands for. So far, Metroid games had been mostly lone adventures where the plot is largely of the implied kind; Fusion, on the other hand, relies on direct narration and even - as unusual it sounds in a Metroid title - dialogue. So, this game is a refreshing change of pace; it's actually quite nice to see Samus, for once, having to cooperate with other people.
Also, the pacing changes are just beautifully done. The space laboratory undergoes changes. Power goes down, and suddenly you have to figure out different routes. There are times when you just have to make quick decisions.
The environments are beautifully done, and the graphics are surprisingly detailed for a 2D sprite game - a tradition which fortunately continued in Metroid: Zero Mission. Music is somewhat different from the usual Metroid tunes, but fit the game very nicely anyway.
The BadThis game is much harder than Metroid: Zero Mission, and the boss fights, at times, approach Metroid Prime in their careful crafting of annoyance. How hard would it be to put the save points right next to the annoying boss fights? In a few places, I just hated to walk around for several tricky minutes from the nearest save point to the boss room where the boss flattens me in no time at all. And, of course, the last boss fights in particular were a marathon in murder. (Luckily, usually the most aggravating part was first in these...)
It's also a less open-ended game, which obviously comes from having such a strong plot this time... No problem in that in itself, but if you combine the annoying bosses with no freeform exploration, you get a distinct "oh man, I again need to trudge through those annoying rooms to get to the spider from hell, maybe I'll play this next week instead" feeling.
It's almost if this game needs more deliberate planning to play through; it's a game that you plan to play, instead of a game (like Zero Mission) that you can play in small doses and go in random directions and still make progress - something that is a good quality in a game for a portable system.
But maybe that feeling will wear off once you play this through a few times and you develop an understanding of the game, the same way you can develop an "understanding" about Zero Mission. I don't know yet, personally.
The Bottom LineFourth 2D part of the Metroid series is a nicely crafted continuation from the groundwork set forth by Super Metroid, and, control-wise, is built to work perfectly on the Game Boy Advance. A lot of strange things are going on this time: a whole new kind of an enemy that is also a master of mimicking, X Parasite, wreaks havoc in a scientific space station. Samus gets infected, disinfected with a new vaccine, and her old Chozo suit gets replaced with something odder.
We also see an evil clone of Samus herself, sure to induce some fear with its awesome weaponry - equivalents of which have traditionally been strewn around the station and you need to go grab them again.
This time, Samus takes orders from an artificial intelligence program which Samus calls Adam, and we also see, much to our non-surprise, that things people would rather not discuss are going on in the space station. Samus talks in this game, (though if you wanted sound samples, we had to wait for Brawl) and also uses her amazing blogging skills more than she used them in Super Metroid, now in form of many diary notes.
So here we have it: Fascinating science fiction tale in crammed, scary quarters of a huge space station - a finely crafted tale at that, if you are into that sort of things. Those new to the series should not take it as a representative of the series what comes to the look, plot and narration, because a lot of things are very different and unique in this game - just the basic gameplay and equipment remains the same compared to the rest of the series. This game works pretty well on its own, but I might recommend trying Metroid: Zero Mission first to get your feet wet - but that's not entirely necessary, I wager.